Ex-All Black and Samoa flanker Mika dead at 45

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Wellington (AFP)

New Zealand rugby was reeling Wednesday at the sudden death of former All Black and Samoa flanker Dylan Mika at the age of just 45.

"It's with sadness we confirm that the former All Black & Manu Samoa star passed away suddenly," New Zealand Rugby tweeted late Tuesday.

Mika, who played seven Tests for the All Blacks in 1999, was an insulin-dependent diabetic and local media reports said he suffered a heart attack related to the condition.

A statement from his family said he died "suddenly and unexpectedly".

"He was a hugely talented athlete, well-respected in the Samoan community and abroad but just as importantly, to his friends and family a warm, wonderful, and caring man," it said.

His tally of international caps for New Zealand would probably have been higher but he had to serve a stand-down period after representing Samoa in two Tests in 1994-95.

"Our prayers and thoughts go out to the family of Dylan Mika," the Samoa Rugby Union tweeted.

New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew also paid tribute.

"Dylan is one of the rare talents, that represented both Samoa and New Zealand at a time when rugby had not long turned professional," he said.

Mika played for the Auckland Blues and Waikato Chiefs in the Super Rugby competition and remained involved in Auckland club rugby after his retirement.